Sun, 14 Jan 2001

Painter Popo's legacy safely preserved

By Matdon

BANDUNG (JP): Popo Iskandar is regarded one of Indonesia's artists who carved his name in golden ink in local fine arts history.

Popo, who passed away on Jan. 29, 2000, is survived by his wife and eleven children. He had a very long list of activities during his lifetime and great influence on his contemporaries.

His death has left a noble arts legacy: a generation now in search of their identity, masterpieces and his unique composition of a cat, a cock and a lion, a combination of which can be found in all his works. His death was a big blow to the local fine arts world, but man is after all mortal.

Popo was known as an artist developing in painting the impressionistic, linear-cubist, expressionist and abstract styles. He expressed his ideas prolifically in the mass media on arts, regeneration of artists, arts education, promotion of community appreciation and strategies for arts popularization.

Immediately after Popo's death, his family members, relatives, and other artists were quick to set up a museum called Griya Seni Popo Iskandar (GSPI/Popo Iskandar's Arts House), where all his works will be kept for posterity. As a matter of fact, the plan to build this museum had already been nurtured when he held his retrospective exhibition in 1999 at the National Gallery in Jakarta.

This museum was built to preserve Popo's works by documenting his works, including his activities and the development of his works, so that the broader community can observe and appreciate these works. GSPI is also complete with a fine arts gallery, a temporary exhibition room for the development of young artists, a library and documentation of works of art and culture which the public can make use of.

GSPI is located not far from Popo's residence, namely in front of Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia (formerly IKIP Bandung) campus, Jl. Dr. Setiabudi No. 268 Bandung, Phone No. 022-2014770, e-mail: <

At the same time, there was also a ceremony marking the launching of a book on the perspective of Popo Iskandar's works, written by Jim Supangkat and Bambang Sugiharto.

Originally the building was designed as a workshop museum. It was inaugurated in 1979 by the Academy of Jakarta and to mark the inauguration Afandi, Rusli, Popo Iskandar and Muchtar Lubis exhibited their works.


Popo got the idea of setting up this museum after returning from a visit to the Netherlands and France, where he was inspired by a small and modest museum housed in a former studio of Picasso in Braque. This workshop museum is now a pioneer in Bandung of museums owned by artists.

As time went by, the workshop museum was no longer suitable as a museum and studio for artists. Popo's death made all the more urgent the need to have an appropriate museum with professional management.

That is the background behind the establishment of GSPI, a museum displaying a permanent collection of Popo Iskandar's works, which includes his earliest work, an oil painting on a piece of board and cardboard titled Lebaran, Idul Fitri Moslem Holiday, and dated 1943. Popo worked on this painting when he was just 16 years old. Later, during the period of the country's freedom struggle, Popo also made posters and sketches on this theme. He was then a member of the Republic of Indonesian Students' Troop (TRIP) and painting posters and sketches was one of the artist-styled expressions of struggle. Unfortunately, nothing is left of his posters as all of them were buried.

To mark the opening of the museum, a series of art activities will be held through Jan. 27, 2001.

There was a retrospective exhibition of Popo's works (between Nov. 18, 2000 - Dec.10, 2000) along with the works of his wife, HR Djuariah Iskandar, another exhibition displaying works of young artists like Amir Siregar, Tisna Sanjaya, Isa Perkasa and so forth (From Dec.16 2000 through to Jan.27, 2001), a performing art expo (the schedule will depend on the weather conditions) and a discussion on how to look after fine art works on Jan. 27, 2001.

Popo's wife, Djuariah, and one of their children, Tetet Cahyati, also an artist, said that GSPI was established out of appreciation for what Popo did for Indonesian artists and that it was expected the museum would provide enough material for intensive studies on modern and contemporary fine arts.

In addition, GSPI will also be a venue for communication and publications to channel the potential of young artists as well as an institute for fine arts study and research.

In his life time, Popo always remembered his colleagues who occupied a special place in his career journey. Therefore, in memory of Popo's close colleagues, the rooms in GSPI are named after them, such as Kusnadi Room (the late Kusnadi was a painter from Magelang, Central Java), Hendra Gunawan Room (the late Hendra was a painter from Bandung), Angkama Setjadipradja Room (Angkama was a painter from Ciamis, West Java) and HR Djuariah Iskandar Room.


Popo was a 1958 graduate of ITB (Bandung Institute of Technology), but he exhibited his paintings along with those of Soedjojono and Basuki Abdullah as early as 1944.

Later he consistently pursued various arts activities as a painter, a writer, a critic and an art patron. In recognition of his dedication to fine arts development in Indonesia, the government has conferred upon him an award as an artist and a contemporary fine art patron.

Born in Garut, West Java, on Dec. 17, 1927 to RH Natamihardja and R Siti Djoebaidah, Popo spent his childhood in Panjahi, Ciamis, West Java. His talent was visible as a child, bolstered obviously by his family's love for Sundanese traditional poetry recital and literature. After completing basic education at a village school in Panjalu, little Popo continued to study at HIS, a school set up by the Dutch colonial rulers for indigenous Indonesian pupils, in Tasikmalaya, Ciamis and Garut. In 1941 he joined MULO, a junior high school during the Dutch colonial rule, in Garut.

In 1942, when Indonesia was under Japanese occupation, he continued his studies in a junior high school in Bandung. It was here that he got acquainted with painting under the guidance of Angkama Setjadipradja, his own brother-in-law. Angkama was a painter and one of the pioneers of the fine arts school at ITB. Popo showed his great talent as a painter when he joined a painting course at Bunka Sidoosho under the guidance of Barli and Hendra Gunawan.

In 1944, his maiden work, Lebaran, was destined to pave the way for Popo to become a great painter. This work was chosen as one of the paintings to be exhibited in a number of cities in Indonesia along with the works of such masters as Sudjojono, Agus Djaja and Basuki Abdullah.

After only three months in a senior high school in Bandung, Popo returned to Garut and joined TRIP, for which he drew posters and served as a member in the information section. In 1947 he joined the Students' Troop in Tasikmalaya and drew sketches under the theme of the freedom struggle. All these works were lost during a massive evacuation. His posters were buried at an evacuation site for fear of being discovered by the Dutch colonial rulers.

In 1948 Popo went to Bandung again and made oil paintings of landscapes and scenes from a day-to-day life on thick cardboard or plywood. Some of these early works were discovered in 1999, just before the retrospective exhibition. They were then kept by the family of Dr Priguna Sidharta in Jakarta and that of Prof. Yus Rusyana in Bandung.

Popo completed his senior secondary school in Bandung and then he studied architecture at the Engineering School of the University of Indonesia Bandung (now ITB) It was here that Popo began to establish communication with Ries Mulder, his fine art lecturer. And from that time up to his death, Popo developed into a mature artist finding his identity through his spectacular work. He left behind an unfinished painting of a cat and a tiger.

Although Popo is no longer with us now, most of his works are displayed at GSPI.

There is now another fine arts "kingdom" in Bandung to join the ranks of the imposing Jeihan Studio in Padasuka area, posh Sunaryo arts gallery in Dago area, the huge Barli Museum in Sarijadi, AD Pirous Studio and another one of Nyoman Nuarta.